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The GOP Stands For The Rights of All People?

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When the Facebook post of Rep. Lynne DiSanto (R- SD, Dist. 35) went viral on the internet September 19, 2017, the Pennington County Republican Party was forced to respond. Black Hills Fox was able to get statements from both the chair and vice chair [1]. Marguerite McPhillips, Pennington County Republican chair said of the meme, “The Pennington County Republican Party does not condone violence that's not what we stand for. I'm disappointed this happened.” Vice chair, Mark Skogerboe, said in part, “She has hurt our credibility. All we can do is stand on our principles and invite people to come and read our platform. I wish her all the best but the party does not stand by that post. The party stands firmly for the rights of all people.” Indivisible Rapid City finds great irony in both statements. Let us not forget what our experience has been with the Pennington County Republican Party in the last few months.  

It all started on June 7, 2017, when we found out that the Pennington County Republican Party, along with ACT for America and others, was sponsoring an event called, Understanding the Threat. Both the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti Defamation League (ADL) identify ACT for America as the largest anti-Islam group in the country [2, 3]. The organization Understanding the Threat and its founder, John Guandolo, are identified by the SPLC as “anti-Muslim” [4]. Two Indivisible Rapid City leaders visited the Pennington County GOP office on June 9, 2017, to ask why the party was sponsoring such an event. The visit did not go well. Pennington County Republican Party chair, Marguerite McPhillips, was less than friendly when we arrived, mostly did not answer any questions, and kicked us out in about two minutes [5]. Obviously questioning the Pennington County Republican Party is not a right afforded to non-Republican citizens of Pennington County, let alone any rights of the Muslims that the party is sponsoring the spread of misinformation and fear about. 

When we protested the Pennington County Republican Party sponsored event, Understanding the Threat event on June 15, 2017, there were supporters of the event that counter protested us. This was fine as both sides were able to utilize their first amendment rights without interacting directly with each other to avoid conflict. One supporter of Understanding the Threat, who calls herself 'Cracked Crystal', posted two live stream videos to Facebook claiming the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and others at a baseball field in Virginia was a terrorist attack having to do with open borders and refugees [6]. The shooter in that situation was a natural born American citizen and we do not believe his religion, if any, is publicly known. She also falsely claims that Indivisible Rapid City wants Sharia Law in the United States and claims that attacks seem to happen at a lot of events where people are, “all for Sharia”. There have been no such attacks at any events in Rapid City. She also points out that Indivisible Rapid City is being interviewed by, “KOTA News which is democratic news.” It is interesting to note that all the sponsors for Understanding the Threat declined to be interviewed by any news outlet, including the local Fox affiliate, KEVN [7]. Clearly, the rights of a free press were not respected since they were not able to tell both sides of the story even though they sought to. 

On June 20, 2017, Indivisible Rapid City was honored to have Taneeza Islam, Esq, present Activist Training: How To Combat Islamophobia. The event was open to the public. Marguerite McPhillips and Amy Willson attended. These two ladies were so disruptive to the speaker that the presentation had to be stopped several times within the first twenty minutes. The women were given at least three opportunities to stay but they became so disruptive that they had to be escorted out by library security [8]. There were several others in attendance who did not appear to support the views of the speaker but they were not disruptive and they were given the opportunity to ask questions and get answers at the end of the presentation. Apparently, Taneeza's right to speak and the right of others to listen are rights not respected by the chair of the Pennington County Republican Party or Amy Willson.  

On July 2, 2017, Indivisible Rapid City held an Impeachment Rally in conjunction with a nation-wide Impeachment March event. The Pennington County Republican Party planned a counter protest. On June 30, 2017 this was posted on their Facebook account,  

“Come and support President Trump this Sunday from Noon until 1:00 pm.

This gathering has been organized as a counter protest against the George Soros funded group Indivisible who will be demonstrating for the impeachment of President Trump! 

Take an hour of your time to show your support for our President.  

See you on the corner of Omaha and Mount Rushmore Road on Sunday, July 2nd!” 

Having counter protesters at our events does not bother us in the least as this is how our first amendment rights are designed to work. Everyone gets to say their peace. Indivisible Rapid City has never interfered with a person's or group's right to say what they want even when we have protested their events. Our goal is simply to make the larger community aware of the events being brought into our community and to show that not all of us support the message they are bringing. We knew there would be counter protesters as soon as we saw Marguerite McPhillips sitting in her truck and talking on her cell phone. When the counter protesters arrived across the street from our event on July 2, 2017 we simply continued with what we were doing.  

Unfortunately, that was not the case for one of the counter protesters. We soon learned that , 'Cracked Crystal' was part of the Pennington County Republican Party counter protest. She came over to where our group was. She had her gun on her hip and her cell phone live streaming to Facebook again. She walked along our group saying things like these people want, “radical Islam,” “they are funded by George Soros.” and complained of being verbally attacked when someone in our group called her a liar for the false statements she was making. Her coming into our group armed, filming and making false statements was a clear effort to intimidate us.  

Indivisible Rapid City leadership made the decision to contact the Rapid City Police Department in order to have them ask her to stay out of our group which was permitted to use the field we were in. Cracked Crystal filmed her interaction with the police officer. In the video the police officer asked her if she was keeping it peaceful, to which she replied, “We're not like them. We're not going to become violent and scream in their face.” She also complained, “I was pretty uncomfortable with them screaming in my face like they did.” In her video, it is very clear that no one was in her face and the only yelling came from behind her while she was clearly not on the sidewalk but in the field [9] . The right to peacefully protest was not respected on this day.  

Indivisible Rapid City has held a nearly weekly protest on Thursdays outside Senator Rounds' office since April 27, 2017. Until recently the Pennington County Republican Party Office was located just two doors down. The office was not open on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Protest participants frequently utilized the public parking spaces near the office. On July 28, 2017, a man who claimed to be part of the Pennington County Republican Party went to one of our leaders and told her that if the cars parked in the spaces near the office were not moved immediately he would have them towed. There was no signage stating that the parking spots were reserved, private, or leased and the office was not even open for business on Thursdays. Indivisible leadership called the Rapid City Police Department who came out to see what they could do. While one of the leaders was speaking with two officers the man walked up and proclaimed, “They are a bunch of Trump haters parking in our spots!” In the end the police officers told us that our cars were allowed to be parked there and sent the man on his way. We find it petty but also humorous that this man from the party believed our views on Donald Trump have anything to do with where we could park or that he could intimidate us into not parking there or possibly stop protesting. 

On Septenber 15, 2017 we found out that the Pennington County Republican Party is promoting an anti-LGBTQ event sponsored by Family Heritage Alliance [10] on October 10, 2017. The event is the annual fundraiser for Family Heritage Alliance and will feature David and Jason Benham as the keynote speakers. The Benham brothers are known to speak out against marriage equality and the evils of homosexuality. More details of their anti-LGBTQ statements can be found in a blog post Indivisible Rapid City published here [11]. This is not how an organization shows that it, “stands firmly for the rights of all people.”  

We cannot address the entire Republican Party Platform in this article but it can be found here [12]. The platform clearly does not support the rights of gay men or lesbian women to marry the ones they love, a woman's right to make her own reproductive choice or to seek care from Planned Parenthood which may be the only low-cost clinic available to her, the separation of church and state, or the right of all married couples to adopt. The platform states it wants to legalize discrimination as long as it is based on the discriminator's religion and conscience. It wants to repeal the ACA, the coverage of essential health benefits, and guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions. It will cut funding to Medicaid putting coverage for the elderly and disabled at great risk. Concerning immigration the platform discusses the building of a wall which will span the full length of our southern border and limiting refugees from countries that have been breeding grounds for terrorism.  

All of this has made one thing very clear to us. The Pennington County Republican Party and the national GOP support the rights of everyone as long as they are white, male, healthy, Christian, heterosexual, and cisgendered [13]. That covers everyone doesn't it? Thankfully though they do draw the line at the suggestion of violence.

 

 

References: 

[1] http://www.blackhillsfox.com/content/news/Heat-continues-after-SD-Rep-Lynne-DiSantos-controversial-Facebook-post-446238783.html 

[2] https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/act-america  

[3] https://www.adl.org/education/resources/profiles/act-for-america  

[4] https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/09/12/disgraced-ex-fbi-agent-john-guandolo-visit-iowa-and-nebraska-week  

[5] https://www.facebook.com/rapidcityindivisible/photos/a.854898814651026.1073741828.853523628121878/916074755200098/?type=3&theater 

[6] We were unable to put a link to the video made by Cracked Crystal. The video can be found on Rapid Fire Internet Radio's Facebook page. The name of the video is "Update on the protest at Rapid City Civic Center" and it was posted on June 15, 2017.  

[7] http://www.blackhillsfox.com/content/news/Tensions-rise-during-alleged-anti-Muslim-event-428769023.html  

[8] http://www.kotatv.com/content/news/Activist-training-against-Islamophobia-gets-heated--429808043.html  

[9] The video referenced here can be found on Facebook at Rapid Fire Internet Radio's Facebook page. The name of the video is "Trump Support" and was posted on July 2, 2017. 

[10] http://myemail.constantcontact.com/NEWS---.html?soid=1112736857522&aid=M5ik7KFhL4k  

[11] https://www.indivisiblerapidcity.org/blog/24-pennington-county-gop-promoting-hate-again.html  

[12] https://prod-cdn-static.gop.com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_FINAL[1]-ben_1468872234.pdf

 

 

 

[13] Cisgendered: denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.

 

 

 

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